The Battle for Iwo Jima was one of the fiercest battles of the Second World War. The battle was the Japanese, who were well dug in on the island, and they were up against the invading United States Marines. The “Island of Terror” took 36 days to finally be a victory for the U.S. You have probably seen Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image of the six Marines raising the U.S. flag on Mt. Suribachi, but did you know that the famous picture was taken from the second flag raising. If you would ask a Marine from Iwo Jima they would say that they cheered when they raised the first flag. So who were the men who rose the first flag on Mt. Suribachi, and why did they put up another flag?
On Feburary 19th, 1945 the men of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions started to hit the beach right around 8:59 a.m. They took heavy casualties, but they eventually broke through the Japanese’s lines. The Marines had heavy resistance, and heavy rain for the days to come. The Marines would suffer around 26,000 casualties from the Japanese on Iwo Jima.
A couple days later on February 23rd, a 40-man patrol was sent to take Mt. Suribachi. The group was 3rd Platoon from Company E, 5th Marine Division. They were told when they got to the top, raise an American flag to signify that the mountain was captured. 3rd Platoon was met with little resistance as they reached the mountain top. When they reached the top, they found a pipe and put the flag on it and raised it up at approximately 10:20 a.m. The names of the men who raised the first flag are 1st Lieutenant Harold Schrier, Platoon Sergeant Ernest Thomas Jr., James Michels, Henry Hanson, Raymond Jacobs, Charles Lindberg, and John Bradley.
No one took a picture of very first flag raising in action, but a photographer for the “Leatherneck” magazine got a picture of the men with the flag after it was put up. The whole island cheered when they saw the first flag go up. In order for the whole island, and the ships to see the flag, they wanted a bigger flag to be flown on Mt. Suribachi. Company E’s 2nd Platoon was then ordered to replace the first flag, which was smaller. 2nd Platoon was accompanied by a couple photographers trying to get a shot of a flag raising. The names of two photographers out of the group were, Joe Rosenthal and Bill Genaust. Genaust was carrying a 16 millimeter motion picture camera with a 50 foot roll of color film in it. Rosenthal had a bulky Speed Graphic camera. When they started to put the new flag up, Genaust started to film, and Rosenthal snapped a picture. The picture would be the most famous picture of the Second World War. Three of the Marines have been identified out of the six, their names are, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, and Harold Schultz.
Here is the original color footage of the second flag raising from Bill Genaust’s camera: